What You Need to Know About Employee Discrimination During LGBTQ Month

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Did you know that, back in 2016, President Barack Obama officially designated June of that year as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender, or LGBTQ Pride Month? 

In his presidential proclamation, he urged Congress to continue passing laws to protect LGBTQ people in the workplace. In doing so, he noted that, “no one should live in fear of losing their job simply because of who they are or who [sic] they love.” The president also called upon Americans “to eliminate prejudice everywhere it exists, and to celebrate the great diversity of the American people.”

Four years later and, while we have made great strides, there is still plenty of work to do. Let us take a moment, in honor of LGBTQ Month, to discuss what you should know about LGBTQ employee discrimination.

To start, there should be an awareness that a problem persists for LGBTQ employees at work. Last year, The Harris Poll conducted a survey for the jobsite, Glassdoor. From April 26 to May 6, 2019, the survey company polled more than 6,100 American adults ages 18 and older. Of those, 515 were employed and self-identified as LGBTQ. More than half of the LGBTQ employees participating in the study had experienced or observed anti-LGBTQ comments by co-workers and 43 percent reported feeling that they cannot be completely truthful about their gender identities or preferences with their employers and coworkers. Almost 70 percent of LGBTQ workers responding to the survey felt that their employers could do more to support them and their allies in the workplace.

To help combat the reality of LGBTQ employees continuing to experience unfair treatment in the workplace, employers can take steps to create a more supportive work environment for LGBTQ employees. This may be accomplished by doing things such as:

  • Establishing and enforcing policies that clearly specify the business’s position on LGBTQ rights in the workplace
  • Making sure hiring practices are conducive to cultivating a diverse workforce that welcomes LGBTQ co-workers
  • Providing relevant training to new and current employees
  • Sponsoring or participating in events or programs benefitting the LGBTQ community
  • Creating a support system for LGBTQ employees in the workplace, or encouraging them to create one on their own
  • Making sure benefits packages provide equal coverage for LGBTQ employees
  • Taking a stand on issues that are important to the LGBTQ community
  • Forming partnerships with organizations specializing in LGBTQ issues to ensure your approach is on point
  • Learning to use positive, inclusive language in internal and external communications
  • Hearing and acting upon the concerns of LGBTQ employees

It is also important to ensure that your policies and procedures comply with any applicable employment and anti-discrimination laws. Doing so allows you to provide a safe, welcoming workplace for LGBTQ employees. It also protects you from potential litigation. 

Stay up to date on employment and anti-discrimination laws. Important laws and court decisions can impact the rights and responsibilities employers have regarding LGBTQ employees. For instance, the Supreme Court just ruled that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which makes it illegal for employers to discriminate on the basis of a person’s sex, also extends protection based on sexual orientation and transgender status.

If you are interested in learning more about how to support your LGBTQ employees we may be able to help. We also welcome questions from members of the LGBTQ community who may be having difficulty at work. Simply call our law firm to schedule a free case evaluation. We look forward to hearing from you.